Horror master Dirk Manning is the hardest working man in comics, constantly touring the country to promote his comics including Nightmare World and Tales of Mr. Rhee. You may also be familiar with him from his Write Or Wrong column here on Bleeding Cool (NEPOTISM!!!), from his Facebook cult, or simply as "that guy who keeps covering his face in photos." Dirk is currently running a Kickstarter for the Nightmare World Omnibus, which collects three previously published volumes of short stories as well as a fourth, never-before-seen volume. He took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with Bleeding Cool about the book.
Check out the interview below, and head to Kickstarter to get your copy today!
52 Stories. 500 Pages. The NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS is a huge book. How the heck are you going to cart these around to all the shows you go to? Have you hired a personal manservant?
By the time this interview sees print I will be wrapping-up my convention season for 2016, which consisted of 31 convention and in-store signing appearances… and you know how I chose to celebrate? Not by going on a vacation or binge-watching all of BLACK MIRROR or CAGE on Netflix… but rather by buying a bigger and better cart that will make it a lot easier to transport the NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS books when they arrive.
That makes me a workaholic, doesn't it? [laughs… then starts weeping]
The NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS collects the 39 stories from NIGHTMARE WORLD Volumes 1-3 as well as the final 13 stories of the series from the never-before-published (until now) NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume 4 and reshuffles them into one definitive "Director's Cut" order. This will give readers who read the stories in the TPBs first (or have patiently been waiting five years for the release of the TPB edition of NWv4) a unique reading experience in both formats.
After all, despite each story being a different genre of horror and illustrated by a different artist or art team, the vast majority of the 52 stories that comprise NIGHTMARE WORLD all weave together into one giant story. While I won't be arranging the stories in a completely chronological fashion in the NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS, I am going to do so in a way that provides a bit more of a clear through-line of the main uber-plot… which involved Lucifer awakening Cthulhu to kickstart the second war with Heaven.
The first three volumes of NIGHTMARE WORLD are available as trade paperbacks, but the fourth volume, also part of the Omnibus, has never been published. But you're also offering the trade for Volume 4 on its own as one of the rewards. Don't you feel like that's a missed opportunity to force people to pay for the Omnibus?
Like I said in the Kickstarter video… I'm not a money grubbing jerk, you know? [laughs]
Yeah, I could have easily run two separate campaigns – one for NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume 4 and then a six months or a year later a second one for the NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS… but that would be a really slimy thing to do, you know? Instead, I combined both books into one Kickstarter campaign. If they just want the NWv4 TPB they can get that… or if they want to skip right to the OMNIBUS they can get that… or for a reduced bundled-price they can get both.
Really, the point of the Kickstarter isn't for me to get rich off the backs of my readers, but rather to help them get access to whatever version (or versions) of the NIGHTMARE WORLD series they want…and then using all kinds of cool Stretch Goals to reward them for helping fund the creation of both editions of the book.
Silly me, being a terrible capitalist and putting the readers first, huh? However will I sleep at night knowing I'm doing right by the people who are supporting my work… [laughs]
The NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS contains 52 individual stories. Over 500 pages, that averages out to about 9.6 pages per story. What draws you to the short story format? Do you like it better than telling longer stories?
Regarding the short story format, yeah, man… I love it and feel it's a woefully underutilized format of storytelling in comics these days. Obviously I'm showing my affinity for the old EC Comics with this format, as well as my admiration for such gifter short story tellers as Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, and even Stephen King (who, in my opinion, does a lot of his best work in this format).
A woman leaves Chicago on a train traveling Eastward at 77 miles per hour at 10:52AM Central Time. She's carrying a NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS, and she reads at an average of 2.3 comic book pages per minute. At 11:36 Eastern Time, a man leaves Poughkeepsie, New York on a Greyhound bus traveling Westward at 62 miles per hour, carrying all three volumes of TALES OF MR. RHEE, and he reads at 2.1 pages per minute. When they meet in the middle, how many combined pages of Dirk Manning comics will they have read?
Just enough to realize that they should have started exploring my work a lot sooner than when they got on their respective trains! Next question!
Lest anyone accuse you of hyperbole, let me set the record straight here: The NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS campaign took eight hours to reach its $13,000 funding goal, and I think it took us two or three days to hit 20K. [laughs]
(And I had similar degrees of "right-out-of-the-box" success with the last two TALES OF MR. RHEE Kickstarter campaigns, too… with both of them being fully funded in under 13 hours each.)
As for the secret of my success… I think it's pretty simple: I offer people a great product unlike anything else they can find in the market, I use social media to let people know about the campaigns before they launch, and I offer a very limited number of uber-cool rewards that you have to pledge for early to get… such as being drawn into the book – and then killed, of course, as these *are* horror stories, after all.
Out of all the artists you've worked with on Nightmare World, which single one is your favorite?
I can genuinely and honestly say I loved working with each of the twenty-or-so artists and art teams equally in different ways. Sorry. Not sorry.
The first three volumes of NIGHTMARE WORLD were published at Image, but the fourth wasn't, due to what you describe on the Kickstarter page as "editorial changes." Now, you're publishing the book at Devil's Due. What happened? Let's make some news today.
Sadly, it's nothing glamorous of salacious. As I said, there were some editorial changes at Shadowline (Jim Valentino's wing of Image Comics) that in part – but only in part – contributed to only the first three books being published while the fourth was left in limbo.
There were other factors, too, including a debilitating concussion that almost cost me my writing career, diminishing returns in the direct market in regards to the straight-to-TPB approach I so staunchly stick to with so much of my work, and a few other factors… but that being said, let me go on record saying that I owe a lot to Jim Valentino, I'm grateful for the opportunities and guidance he gave me, and that he was totally supportive of me moving on with my titles I had previously published under Shadowline. He was very, very good to me in this regard – and did a lot to help me out through the transition, too.
As for why I took the books to Devil's Due, point blank, head honcho Josh Blaylock embraced the Kickstarter distribution model I wanted to pursue and had the infrastructure and desire to help me achieve it… and it's been working out pretty damn well for both of us ever since. Hooray for a win-win!
The final stretch goal transforms the NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS into the NIGHTMARE WORLD BIBLE, and it will be leather-bound. Everyone who pledged for an OMNIBUS will get this souped-up model, which is cool. But I have to ask – what about your Vegan fans, Dirk?
Kidding aside, we are using a non-organic leather for the NIGHTMARE WORLD BIBLE variants that all Kickstarter backers will now get if they pledge for the OMNIBUS. I eat enough hamburgers when I'm on the road 30+ weekends a year already… the last thing I want to do is diminish the number of cows even more with organic leather for the NIGHTMARE WORLD BIBLE editions.
And, you know, the leather made from human flesh was just too damn expensive.
You have a lot of hardcore fans. You even run your own cult on Facebook. But for new readers, why should they be interested in NIGHTMARE WORLD?
For the record, "The F(r)iends of Dirk Manning Support Group" on Facebook was not created by me. Rather, it was started as a bit of a rib by some friends of mine, and I agreed to let it keep going if I could take over the group and clean it up a bit. Inexplicably, the group now have almost 1,100 members, and an has become a very tight-knit internet family of people who like Cthulhu, ice cream, heavy metal, and/or occasionally some professional wrestling.
As for why these people – and so many others — like NIGHTMARE WORLD… I think it's the scope of the whole series and how, through it, the artists and I show all the different things you can do under the umbrella of horror.
A lot of people shy away from using the word "horror" (and instead say "weird fiction" or something like that) because the word "horror" often conjures up images of torture, blood, and boobs… but I think – and know – this is a totally unfair representation of the genre. Good horror asks the reader "What would you do if…?," and that's something I do in NIGHTMARE WORLD throughout countless subgenres and situations in each different story, and that in turn gets a lot of readers who don't normally consider themselves "horror fans" extremely interested in – and passionate about – my work.
Where's the Dirk Manning convention tour heading next? Where can fans come and see you after your holiday break?
I've been averaging close to 30 shows a year for the last few years – primarily in the Midwest portion of the United States – but I'm now moving towards doing fewer, bigger shows that are more spread out across the country. My full schedule of 2017 appearances will be posted at www.DirkManning.com in the coming weeks, but some of the bigger shows people will be able to meet me (and check out my work) at in 2017 include Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, C2E2 in Chicago, Motor City Comic Con outside Detroit, and several of the Wizard shows.
Last question: Would you like to take the time right now to make a potentially risky political comment about the recent election? All of your friends are doing it.
Voting means accepting the results of the vote, presuming positive intent of all involved, and – should one not be happy with the current direction of politics or policies – working towards ethically and responsibly advocating for the change they want to see in the world.
Thanks Dirk! I'd wish you well with the Kickstarter, but you've already just about hit all your stretch goals, so at this point, you're just rubbing it in.
Earlier today we surpassed $26,000 in pledges and presales for the NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS, which, for those of you keeping track at home, means we doubled our funding goal in the first 15 days of the 30 day campaign, unlocking all 13 of the Stretch Goals that I thought would carry us through to the final days of the campaign at the end of November.
Because we blew through them all so quickly, I spent quite a bit of time on the phone today with both Devil's Due (my publisher) and Kraken Printing (my printer) to determine what some good – and feasible – Round 4 Stretch Goals would be… which you should not be able to see on the Kickstarter page, which is located at www.bitly.com/EverythingEnds. I'm grateful for the support of so many readers, old and new, and look forward to continuing to reward everyone with another "Big Box of Dirk" at the end of this campaign!